Miss Americana (2020) by Lana Wilson

Miss Americana documents a part of Taylor Swift’s journey to where and who she is now. Off the bat, I must say that when I first started watching it, I quickly turned it off as the opening sequence made me think it would be a staged film to create empathy. However, I came back to it a day or so later, and though I am not sure why I did that, I am glad I did.

The documentary raises many important issues pertaining to the current media landscape and how it treats celebrities (and how we, as the public, further encourage that treatment). It also provides insight into the complexities of being famous.

It would be tempting at this moment to bash this film for taking on a subject matter that affects so few people directly. Who cares about the complexities of being famous except the famous? You would be particularly tempted to say that when you have other issues like global warming to worry about. But I would argue that this film gets to the heart of one of the major flaws we as a society suffer from. This flaw, according to me, is that we are a cynical society that thrives on comparing ourselves to others and seeking reasons to assume we are better than someone else. That said, this is not what Taylor Swift says in any shape or form during this documentary. As the documentary navigates her struggle in coming to accept herself as who she is and not who she is meant to be, I can’t help but feel that there is a larger problem at hand. That she, her fans, and therefore people at large, are victims of a vicious cycle.

The cycle goes as follows:

  1. Have low self worth.
  2. Seek self worth in fleeting forms of validation, such a approval of peers.
  3. Become dependent on said validation.
  4. See others have the same source of validation.
  5. Feel threatened by it and try to rise up while pulling them down.
  6. Rinse and repeat.

I mentioned earlier that the documentary raises many important issues pertaining to the current media landscape—how it treats celebrities and how we as the public further encourage that treatment. This ties back into this vicious cycle. Tell me if this resonates with you. On one end, you are infuriated with how much sway celebrities have over any given issue. Why after all do Amitabh Bachan or Taylor Swift’s views on politics cause such waves? What kind of expertise do they bring? At the same time,you also totally love *insert other artist* and have watched every one of their interviews.

I’m not saying artists should not have opinions or that they shouldn’t voice them. However, I am saying that we as a people would do better to see them as humans and not gods. See them as we might doctors or scientists (especially climatologists).

Miss Americana is, at the end of the day, a character study of someone who has gone through a lot of unique and common experiences in a very short span of time. It is not life changing or ground breaking, but it is insightful and hopeful. What I took away from it is that if we were kinder, more set on seeking our own personal sense of self worth, rather than dependending on faceless masses, we might just be empathetic enough to never again say horrible mean things to each other. We might even just be okay with peace for once.

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